The leaves have changed colour and that means one thing — the trout season on rivers and streams in Victoria is soon to close. While I always get a little sad about packing away my rod, the fish need a chance to breed and replenish the river with a new generation of memories. For me, autumn is a time to catch my breath and reflect on a busy season fly guiding. It might seem strange, but it’s the people I’ve fished with rather than the fish themselves that spring to mind first. This is because I’ve been lucky enough to spend time guiding some pretty special people.
It’s amazing how the tranquillity of fly fishing allows people to connect and open up in ways they wouldn’t always. As a guide, not only have I given some great lessons, I’ve learned many myself from the lives and experiences my wonderful clients have shared with me on the water. And it’s this candour, trust, and camaraderie that gets me out of bed on cold mornings when the fish are playing hard to get! So, I’d like to give all my clients a shout out right here because they are what makes Charley May Fly Fishing so great.
As my very first client, Jess will always hold a special place in my heart. She dropped me a line after reading my story in GRAM. A former chef who retrained as a train driver, she wanted to find a hobby that would take her away from the noise of everyday life. After an hour of tuition, she was doing some solid pickup and laydown casts and managed to get three strikes! Not bad for two hours on the water as a complete novice. Next time, Jess, I’m confident you’ll get the fish that got away.
Jeffe and Carrie
These guys are great friends and white water rafting experts who split their time between Australia and America. Thanks to me, they’re also now budding fly fishers. I took them out and taught them the basics on the Bundarra River near Anglers Rest. Both of them had pretty tense arms and fast casting strokes at the start. However, they both seemed to respond well to my tongue-in-cheek advice about slowing things by imagining having a few tokes. I’m looking forward to chilling out around a campfire and getting on the water again with you guys again soon!
A former spin fisher and bait caster, it seemed old habits die hard with Jim. I did my best to find ways to stop him from ‘throwing’ the rod rather than ‘casting’ it, but I reckon I’ll need more time if I’m to turn him into a fly fisher. And this is something I’m looking forward to because Jim was one of the sweetest, most gentle guys I’ve ever met. While learning new things is tough, sipping beer and watching the most magical sunset was super easy with Jim because he’s awesome.
My first international client, Richard was from the US and was here in Melbourne on business. He chose me to spend his day off with me. And man, what a day it was. From the moment I met him I knew we were going to get on just swell. I took him to a private stretch of water I have access to on the Stevenson River. He could certainly cast but he lacked confidence about what flies to use and where the fish would be holding — which is where I came in because I know the water like the back of my hand. I helped him land 11 fish and get dozens of strikes. A troutrageous day that goes down as one of the best sessions of the season! Read about it here.
My first interstate client, Brad is a former Victorian living in Queensland who wanted to wet a line in his old state. He was looking for somewhere off the beaten track so we headed to Baw Baw to fish the West Tangil and Toorongo Rivers. This man’s positive attitude and gentle soul captured my heart. Here was someone who had had some serious health setbacks and was still smelling the roses. It was a cold, hard day and the fish were shy, but his persistence paid off in four lovely little trout — and you couldn’t wipe the smile from his face. I have so much respect for you Brad, there’s always a cold beer waiting for you here, mate.
John and Hannah
This father and daughter duo were a pair of legends. John contacted me because he wanted to get his enthusiastic daughter out on the water with a talented female fly fisher. I’m glad he did because Hannah was just a delight to coach, and I managed to help correct a few of John’s bad habits too. It was a rollercoaster of sunshine and rain that triggered a crazy termite hatch and strange trout behaviour. It required observation, patience and persistence to be successful — and the triumphs they both had were testament to their positivity and determination. It was particularly awesome to be able to guide Hannah to her first three wild trout. Beyond the fish, these guys were just damn good fun to hang with and I look forward to fishing with them again soon.
Rob, Brendon, Harrison, and Griffin
In the spirit of transparency, I must admit that this crew are family. However, no mates rates were paid so I reckon that makes them fully-fledged clients. Guide and good friend Ian Mitchel of Twig and Stream helped me with this trip and helped Brendon and Harrison get strikes and land a couple of brownies. I looked after Rob and Griffin. The autumn conditions were tough — low water and sunshine equals spooky fish. While Rob caught a fish, Griffin struggled to get a bite despite my best efforts. However, what really impressed me about Griffin (14 years-old) was his concentration, determination, and maturity to not let frustration get the better of him. Well done, Griffin. Next time, we’ll spend a little longer on the land getting casting right so we can have more success on the water.
Michelle and Paul
Could you get two more gorgeous people? No, is the answer. Complete novices, these guys had one of the worst days to learn how to fly fish. It was cold and the rain was coming in sideways. And yet both of them got out in it and responded to my casting drills exceptionally. In fact, it’s fair to say both had incredible natural ability and are among the quickest learners I’ve taught. Out on the water, Paul really understood how to apply short line nymphing techniques that were needed to fish the stream. Unfortunately, they only booked a half-day trip so didn’t manage to hook up to a fish. However, the real highlight of the day was heading to their warm car for a bottle of wine, delicious lunch, and great chats. Cheers to going out in better weather and catching fish next time!